Tag Archive | "Writing"

Fix This Writing Mistake to Engage Readers with the Right Challenges

In college, there are three kinds of classes. First, there’s the blow-off classes, where 80 percent of your grade comes from fill-in-the-blank worksheets. To pass, all you really have to do is show up. Then, there are the classes taught by “real hardasses.” These classes kept you up well past midnight, flipping frenetically through flashcards,
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7 Ways to Bring More Artistry to Your Writing

The killer and the poet — ideally both in balance. That’s our theme for writers in 2018: To sharpen up your “killer” side with strategic, analytic, and technical skills, without ignoring your “poetic” side that has the talent to create fascinating content. Today’s post is about nurturing that inner poet — and adding more artistry
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Some of the Copyblogger Team’s Favorite Writing and Content Sites

Here at Copyblogger, we’ve always been in love with writers. So we thought it would be fun to wrap up the year with a collection of some favorite blogs and podcasts that teach writing, showcase writing, or help writers. This is very much a partial list — so if you have a favorite site that
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How to Find a Juicy Writing Idea When Your Creative Well Has Run Dry

It’s the hard part. The thing about being a writer that isn’t necessarily all that awesome. Sometimes it’s the part that makes you doubt yourself, doubt your creativity and abilities, maybe even doubt whether this whole professional writing thing really makes sense for you. “What the &$ %# am I going to write about this week?”–
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The Most Powerful Writing Voice for 21st-Century Content

In the beginning was authority. From the earliest days of advertising, authority was one of the first strategies used to persuade the masses. Then, a lot of us started using this internet thing to talk to one another. There was some speculation that authority was becoming an outdated concept. But it’s funny how these things
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Clickbait, Insomnia, and Writing Fears … Nevermore

You can tell we’re heading into Halloween — around the blog, our thoughts have been turning to topics dark and creepy. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman brought up a thorny question — is it okay to use all of those fiendishly effective headline techniques, or do we run the risk of turning our content into “clickbait?”
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What’s Your Worst Writing Fear? Dread and Trepidation from Our Editorial Team

It seems straightforward enough. We human beings are innately verbal creatures. Writing is just taking the language we dream, think, and speak in, and arranging the words on some paper or a computer screen. So why is it so hard sometimes? I think it’s because the same inventive brains that gave us Harry Potter, A
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Writing Headlines that Serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors All Together – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Have your headlines been doing some heavy lifting? If you’ve been using one headline to serve multiple audiences, you’re missing out on some key optimization opportunities. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand gives you a process for writing headlines for SEO, for social media, and for your website visitors — each custom-tailored to its audience and optimized to meet different goals.

Writing headlines that serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about writing headlines. One of the big problems that headlines have is that they need to serve multiple audiences. So it’s not just ranking and search engines. Even if it was, the issue is that we need to do well on social media. We need to serve our website visitors well in order to rank in the search engines. So this gets very challenging.

I’ve tried to illustrate this with a Venn diagram here. So you can see, basically…


In the SEO world of headline writing, what I’m trying to do is rank well, earn high click-through rate, because I want a lot of those visitors to the search results to choose my result, not somebody else’s. I want low pogo-sticking. I don’t want anyone clicking the back button and choosing someone else’s result because I didn’t fulfill their needs. I need to earn links, and I’ve got to have engagement.

Social media

On the social media side, it’s pretty different actually. I’m trying to earn amplification, which can often mean the headline tells as much of the story as possible. Even if you don’t read the piece, you amplify it, you retweet it, and you re-share it. I’m looking for clicks, and I’m looking for comments and engagement on the post. I’m not necessarily too worried about that back button and the selection of another item. In fact, time on site might not even be a concern at all.

Website visitors

For website visitors, both of these are channels that drive traffic. But for the site itself, I’m trying to drive right visitors, the ones who are going to be loyal, who are going to come back, hopefully who are going to convert. I want to not confuse anyone. I want to deliver on my promise so that I don’t create a bad brand reputation and detract from people wanting to click on me in the future. For those of you have visited a site like Forbes or maybe even a BuzzFeed and you have an association of, “Oh, man, this is going to be that clickbait stuff. I don’t want to click on their stuff. I’m going to choose somebody else in the results instead of this brand that I remember having a bad experience with.”

Notable conflicts

There are some notable direct conflicts in here.

  1. Keywords for SEO can be really boring on social media sites. When you try and keyword stuff especially or be keyword-heavy, your social performance tends to go terribly.
  2. Creating mystery on social, so essentially not saying what the piece is truly about, but just creating an inkling of what it might be about harms the clarity that you need for search in order to rank well and in order to drive those clicks from a search engine. It also hurts your ability generally to do keyword targeting.
  3. The need for engagement and brand reputation that you’ve got for your website visitors is really going to hurt you if you’re trying to develop those clickbait-style pieces that do so well on social.
  4. In search, ranking for low-relevance keywords is going to drive very unhappy visitors, people who don’t care that just because you happen to rank for this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, because you didn’t serve the visitor intent with the actual content.

Getting to resolution

So how do we resolve this? Well, it’s not actually a terribly hard process. In 2017 and beyond, what’s nice is that search engines and social and visitors all have enough shared stuff that, most of the time, we can get to a good, happy resolution.

Step one: Determine who your primary audience is, your primary goals, and some prioritization of those channels.

You might say, “Hey, this piece is really targeted at search. If it does well on social, that’s fine, but this is going to be our primary traffic driver.” Or you might say, “This is really for internal website visitors who are browsing around our site. If it happens to drive some traffic from search or social, well that’s fine, but that’s not our intent.”

Step two: For non-conflict elements, optimize for the most demanding channel.

For those non-conflicting elements, so this could be the page title that you use for SEO, it doesn’t always have to perfectly match the headline. If it’s a not-even-close match, that’s a real problem, but an imperfect match can still be okay.

So what’s nice in social is you have things like Twitter cards and the Facebook markup, graph markup. That Open Graph markup means that you can have slightly different content there than what you might be using for your snippet, your meta description in search engines. So you can separate those out or choose to keep those distinct, and that can help you as well.

Step three: Author the straightforward headline first.

I’m going to ask you author the most straightforward version of the headline first.

Step four: Now write the social-friendly/click-likely version without other considerations.

Is to write the opposite of that, the most social-friendly or click-likely/click-worthy version. It doesn’t necessarily have to worry about keywords. It doesn’t have to worry about accuracy or telling the whole story without any of these other considerations.

Step five: Merge 3 & 4, and add in critical keywords.

We’re going to take three and four and just merge them into something that will work for both, that compromises in the right way, compromises based on your primary audience, your primary goals, and then add in the critical keywords that you’re going to need.


I’ve tried to illustrate this a bit with an example. Nest, which Google bought them years ago and then they became part of the Alphabet Corporation that Google evolved into. So Nest is separately owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Nest came out with this new alarm system. In fact, the day we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday, they came out with a new alarm system. So they’re no longer just a provider of thermostats inside of houses. They now have something else.

Step one: So if I’m a tech news site and I’m writing about this, I know that I’m trying to target gadget and news readers. My primary channel is going to be social first, but secondarily search engines. The goal that I’m trying to reach, that’s engagement followed by visits and then hopefully some newsletter sign-ups to my tech site.

Step two: My title and headline in this case probably need to match very closely. So the social callouts, the social cards and the Open Graph, that can be unique from the meta description if need be or from the search snippet if need be.

Step three: I’m going to do step three, author the straightforward headline. That for me is going to be “Nest Has a New Alarm System, Video Doorbell, and Outdoor Camera.” A little boring, probably not going to tremendously well on social, but it probably would do decently well in search.

Step four: My social click-likely version is going to be something more like “Nest is No Longer Just a Thermostat. Their New Security System Will Blow You Away.” That’s not the best headline in the universe, but I’m not a great headline writer. However, you get the idea. This is the click-likely social version, the one that you see the headline and you go, “Ooh, they have a new security system. I wonder what’s involved in that.” You create some mystery. You don’t know that it includes a video doorbell, an outdoor camera, and an alarm. You just hear, “They’ve got a new security system. Well, I better look at it.”

Step five: Then I can try and compromise and say, “Hey, I know that I need to have video doorbell, camera, alarm, and Nest.” Those are my keywords. Those are the important ones. That’s what people are going to be searching for around this announcement, so I’ve got to have them in there. I want to have them close to the front. So “Nest’s New Alarm, Video Doorbell and Camera Are About to Be on Every Home’s Must-Have List.” All right, resolved in there.

So this process of writing headlines to serve these multiple different, sometimes competing priorities is totally possible with nearly everything you’re going to do in SEO and social and for your website visitors. This resolution process is something hopefully you can leverage to get better results.

All right, everyone, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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6 Writing and Productivity Rituals from the Copyblogger Creative Team

I’ve said for a long time … writers are magicians. We make something out of nothing. We take syllables and turn them into dreams, sights, sounds. Calls to action and detailed plans for shenanigans. And as every magician knows, if you want to perform magic … you have to know a thing or two about
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Making a Living Writing Ebooks: Here’s How It Works Today

"An excellent ebook can provide both revenue and a doorway to greater things." – Sonia Simone

Once upon a time, there was a straightforward solution to “monetizing” your website when you got tired of trying to make AdSense work:

Write an ebook!

Having something of your own to offer, even a simple $ 7 ebook, virtually always beats trying to monetize your traffic with advertising.

And that’s still true. (In fact, sales of ebooks hit $ 9 billion in 2015.)

But as more and more people have taken that advice, we need to get a little more strategic to build strong businesses around ebooks.

It can still be done, and I’ll be talking about folks who are doing it. But you can also let ebooks become part of a bigger game, within a larger digital business strategy.

The straight ebooks-for-sale play

We all know that some fiction authors are making a killing selling digital-only books on Amazon.

In fact, a few of those authors are dear friends of ours.

But that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. The world of fiction is a fascinating one in its own right, but the other type of ebook — the somewhat traditional “information product” designed to teach something valuable — is one we have a lot of experience with.

Two powerhouse ebook publishers

It’s getting trickier to build a business around ebooks alone, but if you look at Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School, that site grew to an ecommerce powerhouse on the strength of ebooks.

(In recent years, DPS has expanded to offer courses as well — a natural evolution that can be remarkably profitable.)

The DPS ebooks each focus on a topic the audience wants to know more about — with titles like Life in Natural Light and Captivating Color.

There are a few keys to the success of their library:

  • The books are gorgeous. Darren’s team does an exceptional job with the design of their ebooks, creating digital equivalents of “coffee table books,” featuring, of course, lots of superb photography.
  • The books are also ultra useful, walking the customer through a specific photography technique so she can get better results in her own work.
  • And the ebooks offer impressive value at just $ 10 each. That’s a small transaction, but because there are lots of them, and because DPS enjoys a large and passionate audience, the revenue adds up.

Another person who knows a thing or two about ultra-successful ebooks is Brett Kelly, author of Evernote Essentials.

Brett wrote the definitive guide to the popular app Evernote. Despite the fact that there were dozens of $ 1 and $ 2 guides available, his (at $ 29) won the war — because it was, quite simply, massively more useful than the cheaper guides.

Brett has done lots of projects since then. He even worked for Evernote for a while — the company loved his book so much, they brought him on, while allowing him to keep his lucrative digital business.

Both Darren and Brett showcase three features that any successful ebook needs:

  1. Great design
  2. Incredible usefulness
  3. Excellent value for the investment (of time or money)

The low-cost introductory product

With the explosive rise of Amazon’s Kindle, readers have become accustomed to paying just a few dollars for ebooks.

(Note that isn’t always the case — Brett’s pricing, mentioned above, survived because of that book’s excellent reputation and quality.)

If you’re trying to make your entire living with ebooks, a low price point can be tricky. But you can also use the lower price point to your advantage by using ebooks as ultra low-risk entry points to your business.

For example, on Big Brand System, Pamela Wilson uses low-cost ebook guides as launching points to an ongoing relationship with her business.

Titles like Business Name and Tagline Guide and Quick-Start Guide to Branding your Business showcase Pamela’s expertise and give potential clients a taste of how she can help grow their businesses.

Her library of low-cost ebooks creates a list of buyers for Pamela’s pricier offerings, including private coaching slots.

Why is that cool? Because a list of buyers (even if they’ve just picked up an inexpensive item) is always much more responsive than a simple interest list.

Buyers have already made a micro-commitment with your organization, which research has shown often leads to a greater willingness to take similar actions.

For many of your lower-priced buyers, going on to a more intensive offering will be a natural next step. And if you put the work in to make your low-cost ebook exceptional, there’s no better “ad” for how you will handle a larger project or product.

A list of buyers, of course, also weeds out the “looky-loos” who subscribe to lists but don’t read them or are only on the list to get free resources.

The thought leader

For a long time now, writing a book has been a way to open many more doors beyond the revenue you get from the book itself.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours, puts it this way:

“Writing a book still tends to have a positive effect on your reputation: if you invest the effort to write a good/useful book, you’ve spent more time thinking about the topic than other people, which makes you rare and valuable to people who are interested in the topic.”

– Josh Kaufman

Given enough time and exposure, an excellent ebook (or series of books) can provide both revenue and a doorway to greater things.

“When we launched Copy Hackers on Hacker News in 2011, we sold $ 20K worth of ebooks in a few days’ time. That money was everything to me then. It was a signal that our little ebook experiment could turn into a business, that there was a market for what we had, and that the market would pay us for what we knew. Without our ebooks, I would have had to find a job (ugh) at someone else’s business (ugh); with the ebooks, I could afford to try my hand at blogging.

“Years after our launch, our ebooks have become far less about generating revenue. Promoting them on sites like AppSumo and Freelancer has helped us grow our list. And getting them in the hands of makers and influencers has brought us consulting projects, interviews, and speaking engagements.”

– Joanna Wiebe, Copy Hackers

The relationship builder

Many have written about using an ebook as an opt-in reward. In other words, you can use an ebook as an “ethical bribe” to get people to sign up for your email list.

And it works really well for that — but it’s smart to understand the deeper business reasoning.

Offering something valuable, like an ebook, is a reward for taking action. But it also needs to become the cornerstone of an ongoing business relationship.

As any competent sales professional can tell you, before they make a purchase, buyers need to:

  • Know you,
  • like you, and
  • trust you.

An ebook that only gets the prospect to sign up for your email list isn’t living up to its potential.

Those “ethical bribes” need to entice the prospect to take action, and they also need to further the professional relationship to build the case for an eventual purchase.

For example, My Copyblogger is a completely free membership site with an extensive library of free content marketing ebooks.

When we created the free membership library, we took the traditional “trade an ebook for an email opt-in” to a completely new level (and increased our email sign-ups by about 400 percent).

Could we have offered them for sale and made a few dollars? Definitely.

But by using them as the cornerstone of a valuable free membership experience, we’re nurturing relationships for more advanced products like Digital Commerce Academy. (Digital Commerce Academy will reopen to new students on August 21, 2017, so if you’re interested in joining, add your email address to the waitlist below.)

A rose is a rose is a rose

As you’re deciding the role an ebook might play in your business strategy, remember that you don’t actually have to call it an ebook.

In fact, ebooks in other guises can be powerful business-boosters.

So, a values-based, inspirational digital entrepreneur like Chris Guillebeau might (and did) call his ebook a manifesto.

If you offer B2B products or services, at least some of your ebooks will probably be white papers.

At Rainmaker Digital, we’re fans of the special report, but we also like other downloadables like checklists, worksheets, and infographics.

And one of my favorites to play with recently has been the workbook, with the pragmatic, hands-on associations that label brings.

The more flexible you are about how you think about and package your ebooks, the more powerful a tool they can become in your digital business strategy.

Would you like some help with that?

Digital Commerce Academy (DCA) helps you build the business of your dreams by teaching you how to create and sell profitable digital services and goods (like ebooks) without squandering time and money, stumbling to find the right path, or making unnecessary mistakes.

DCA features full-length courses (including Brian Clark’s Build Your Online Training Business the Smarter Way), 20+ webinars featuring in-depth case studies and education on cutting edge tools, as well as Q&As with the Rainmaker Digital team.

The doors to DCA are currently closed, but we are reopening them on August 21, 2017. Join the waitlist below today to get an exclusive offer when DCA reopens.

Enter your Email:

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